Skip to comments.Mauritania Western-Allied Leader Winning
Posted on 11/08/2003 5:44:54 AM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl
Mauritania Western-Allied Leader Winning
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) -- Mauritania's U.S.- and Israeli-allied longtime leader was winning presidential elections in the Arab-dominated desert nation Saturday, beating a challenger who was backed by Islamic fundamentalists and liberal reformers alike, preliminary results showed.
With 80 percent of unofficial results from across the country counted, President Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya had 65 percent support, according to the Interior Ministry, which was running the vote.
His strongest competitor among five challengers, Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla, trailed with 20 percent, the Interior Ministry said.
The trend would give Taya the 50 percent showing he needs to avoid a runoff in Mauritania, a nation of 2.9 million people straddling Arab and African worlds on the southern edge of the Sahara.
Security forces stepped up checkpoints around the presidential palace and other government buildings as the vote was counted Saturday, six months after Taya withstood a coup attempt blamed on Muslim hard-liners in the Islamic republic. Full unofficial results were expected later Saturday.
After being arrested, then released, on the eve of the vote, Haidalla had gone into hiding since polls closed Friday night to avoid being detained again, military police confirmed.
His campaign promised legal challenges to the election.
"The fraud was flagrant, and there has been intimidation for weeks," Haidalla campaign spokeswoman Hindou Gueye said.
"We'll take all measures as allowed by the constitution," Gueye said, but added the opposition would resist street protests for fears its followers would get out of control. "We are a peaceful movement."
Both leading candidates have accused the other of plotting to take power by force or by fraud, regardless of the true vote count.
Except for the increased security, Nouakchott, a sandy capital of low buildings and donkey carts, remained calm early Saturday.
Mauritania has never seen a peaceful transfer of power in its 43 years of independence from France.
Taya has ruled Mauritania since overthrowing Haidalla, then a military dictator, in 1984. The opposition charges all subsequent elections under Taya have been fraudulent.
Taya's administration supported Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War, but shifted political alliances dramatically in the mid-1990s. In 1999, Mauritania became one of only three countries in the Arab League to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
That same year, Mauritania broke ties with Iraq, despite the common Baath Party membership of many leaders in Mauritania and Saddam's Iraq.
Taya's government cracked down on pro-Saddam rallies during the recent U.S.-led war in Iraq, and blocked what it claimed were fundamentalist attempts to use mosques to recruit fighters for the Iraqi leader.
Haidalla during the run-up to the vote appeared to have backing from a wide range of voters, including moderates weary of Taya's long and restrictive rule.
He campaigned side-by-side with a leading Islamic cleric whom Taya's regime had jailed for four months during the U.S.-led Iraq offensive this year.
Cleric Mohamed Hassan Dedaw, who spoke frequently to crowds during Haidalla's campaign rallies, told The Associated Press he saw Mauritania's ties with Israel as currently unjustifiable.
"During this situation where Israel is killing Palestinians and ruining their homes, I can't see why we should have relations with them," Dedaw said.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Chief of State:
President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya.
President OULD TAYA was born in Atar (Adrar Wilaya) in 1941. After graduating from the Coranic School, the Franco-Arabic Primary school "Medersah" of Atar (1949-1955), and the high school of Rosso in southern Mauritania, he attended the French Military School in 1960 and graduated as an officer. In 1963, he joined the Military High Academy, and in 1975 went to the French War Academy for strategic training.
After 1978, Mr. OULD TAYA was in charge of the Defense Ministry and Chief of Police in 1980. He became Chief of Staff of the Army in January 1981 and served as Prime Minister from April 1981 to March 1984.
He was designated again as head of the National Army in 1984 and a few months later, President of the Military National Salvation Army until his election as a head of state by popular vote.
Elections: The President was elected by popular vote for a six-year term on December 12, 1997 (next election will be held in November 2003).
Election results: President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed TAYA was reelected with 90.9% of the vote in 1997. In 1992 he was elected with 63% of the vote.
Head of Government: Prime Minister Cheikh El Afia Ould Mohamed Khouna. The Prime Minister was appointed by the President on November 16, 1998. His government program is presented to both the National Assembly and the Senate for approval.
Cabinet : Council of Ministers: Composed of about 21 members (18 men and 3 women).
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